Officials hit back at legco hearing into I.T. contract

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 June, 2011, 12:00am


Government officials hit back yesterday at claims of political interference by whistle-blower Jeremy Godfrey in the awarding of an HK$220 million contract to run an internet learning programme.

They accused former government information technology chief Godfrey of overseeing an unfair selection process at a special meeting of a Legislative Council panel.

Godfrey, 49, made his most detailed accusations yet of alleged 'political pressure' from senior officials in the awarding of the contract to provide IT training to the underprivileged.

He claims Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Elizabeth Tse Man-yee directed a 'political assignment' to give the contract to a company called eInclusion, a tie-up between the Internet Professional Association (iProA) and the Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association.

But his targets suggested the non-renewal of his employment contract might have motivated his claims.

Tse, who was then Godfrey's direct supervisor, revealed that two of the five bidders for the project were given two opportunities to present their proposals to the evaluation panel responsible for picking the winner and which was chaired by Godfrey.

She said the other three bidders were given only one chance and asked: 'Was that fair?'

Tse continued: 'When Mr Godfrey for the first time submitted documents about the programme to me, I felt very uncomfortable and a bit shocked.

'It was a HK$220 million project and there should be checks and balances on it. But the evaluation panel chairman and the controlling officer of the project were the same person, i.e. Mr Godfrey.

'In addition, the controlling officer overrode all other members' opinions,' Tse said, referring to Godfrey's suggestion that the eInclusion company and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) jointly launch the programme.

This was despite evaluation panel members giving the HKCSS a higher overall score than eInclusion.

'I suggested to the minister that there should be checks and balances and reviews of the procedure. A review committee was therefore set up to make decisions on procedural matters,' she said.

Godfrey has admitted it was his suggestion that eInclusion and the HKCSS discuss the possibility of collaboration.

Noting that a clear majority of the panel gave the HKCSS higher scores, he defended his decision.

He said: 'Compared to other members of the evaluation panel, I personally had almost 20 years of business experience.

'I attached greater weight and saw a bigger difference in the business proposals and the merits of the two different business proposals.

'I ended up scoring eInclusion to be marginally ahead of HKCSS.'

Some pro-government lawmakers asked why Godfrey had not made his complaints about the alleged 'political assignment' earlier. They asked whether his later complaint was motivated by the fact that Tse had told him he might not have his employment contract renewed.

But he said: 'It was absolutely nothing to do with my contract renewal.'

Tsang, who was absent from yesterday's meeting because of a prior engagement, will appear at the panel's next special meeting a week tomorrow.